A witch and a bitch with an herbal itch - and an overactive imagination.
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By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root – A Review

March 3rd, 2017

When the publication of this book was announced, I got excited. Yet another book to add to my collection on poisonous plants! In addition, Ms. Draco is a respected author in the occult world.

Once through this small book (a whopping 96 pages), I was both pleased and disappointed.

The pleased: She gives a very nice history of poisoning, detailing instances from Socrates’ famed ingestion of hemlock, through the times of the Roman Empire, to the Borgias and de’ Medicis of the Renaissance, poisonous intrigue in the English courts, and finishing with various accounts of poisonings in the 18th century (which, naturally, were mostly perpetrated by women 😉 ).

An entire chapter was devoted to the “Proving Tree”, which was a “metal stand (often attached to the salt dish) that had from five to fifteen different ‘stone’ pendants hanging from its branches.” For a few centuries, it was thought that dipping one stone or another into food would either detect or neutralize any poison found in food. Servants would have been a part of that “Proving Tree” because several would taste their master’s food before it even got to him.

The final chapter, “Cursing v Bottling”, was useful. She goes to great lengths to discourage someone from cursing which, in a book for public consumption, is a good thing. A milder retaliation is bottling and she’s got some good ideas in there.

The disappointment: the listing of the plants themselves. While the information presented is, for the most part, accurate, only a chemistry buff would be interested in the list of toxic chemicals in each plant. I’m used to reading scientific papers and I found my eyelids drooping at points. Foot- or endnotes would have made reading easier, rather than citing sources within the text.

It’s obvious this book wasn’t reviewed by someone who is an herbalist prior to publication. One example: she cites “Margaret Grieve” as the author of A Modern Herbal (Chapter 3). The initial “M” stands for Maud.

Another: she lists “Bryony black and white” as Bryonia dioica. B. dioica is red (or sometimes white) bryony, while white is B. alba. Black bryony is in another genus (Dioscorea) altogether, although no less toxic.

And one final nitpicking: all but one of the Latin binomials are in lower case, sometimes without the species name attached (making it a monomial). In case you didn’t know, the genus is always capitalized, the species not. If all species in a genus are considered, then ‘spp.’ should be after the genus.

So, I’ll give this 3.5 stars of 5. It presented a lot of good information on poisonous herbs but there are other books out there that present it better (a couple she used for reference and cited in the bibliography would be a good start). Buy it for the history lesson and how to bottle rather than curse.

 

 

Tulum

February 16th, 2017

As I said last week, it’s taken me a while to process my visit to Tulum. I’m not certain I’ve still fully grasped everything, but here goes…

(Note: most of what I’m saying here is from our tour guide who, in addition to being an archaeological guide, is part Mayan. Take it as fact, or not.)

 

First, Tulum was built on the highest point on the Yucatan Peninsula and the temple – El Castillo – sits almost at the edge of the bluff. (Husband, who grew up along the coast, estimates that in its heyday, it was probably visible five or six miles out to sea.) And what a perfect site to build on – so defensible! Landward, it’s surrounded by mangrove swamps which, in addition to being almost impossible to move through without a lot of machete work, are inhabited by animals like crocodiles and venomous snakes.

Thankfully, we were there on a dry, sunny day before the rainy season. Our guide told us Tulum means “stinky soil” and that would definitely apply when things were really wet. Yet, the official site says Tulum means “wall”. I think either would apply.

One you’ve made it to the wall, you don’t have much of a choice of entries unless you want to try to scale the wall. There are only five gateways, and they’re tiny – even for a small person like me. Husband had to duck and I saw several people going through sideways. (The exit is now a path with stairs, thanks to the restoration.)

Once through the gate, you see a beautiful clearing with the ruins. (I can’t imagine the work that went into building the city, much less uncovering it again.) Not many structures are still standing and those that are, aren’t fully intact. But compared to today’s cities, it’s small. The entire site within the wall & up to the cliff is only about 300 acres – that’s about 1/3 the size of Olympic Park in London!

The first thing that hit me was the silence. Even with a bunch of tourists walking around and several tour guides giving their talks, it was so peaceful! The first word that popped into my head was “sacred”. Makes sense. The Mayan were very careful with their land, living in harmony with it rather than trying to force it to their will.

Tulum was a trading port – one of the most important in the Mayan Empire. If you look at where it’s situated on a map, you can see that it’s in a perfect spot for people to bring things both by land and sea. There’s a natural cove at the base of the cliff, making it easy for boats. Although, I wouldn’t want to haul my goods up or down that path! I would love to see a different site (leaving the ruins as they are), set up as it originally was, with re-enactors. At least, re-enactors doing what we think they would’ve been doing 800 years ago. We can thank the conquistadors for destroying virtually everything related to the Mayan culture.

Some pics of the ruins, including El Castillo*:

*Those two lumps on El Castillo (better in the closeup) are the sacrifice stones. The person would’ve been laid on their back over those two stacks of rocks so the priest could more easily go up under the rib cage rather than trying to go through it to get to the heart. Ouch.

As an earth witch, I wear moccasins when I can’t go barefoot so I can feel what’s happening around me. While I still got the feeling of “sacred”, I didn’t get the energy buzz I normally get, which puzzled me. Husband and I talked about it later and we think it was because of all the underground water. The Yucatan Peninsula is riddled with underground rivers, and cenotes are all over the place, providing fresh water – if you want to climb down for it! Which, of course, they had to. Water seems to negate earth energy for me. I’m curious what I would’ve felt if we’d been allowed on the ruins themselves. Stone has a long memory. (But thankfully, we weren’t. I’d hate to see them destroyed any further.)

Unfortunately, the number of people walking around sort of kept the wildlife away. According to our guide, there are several coati-mundi living there, including two that aren’t shy. I was so disappointed I didn’t see them! But here’s a cool bird and a squirrel that didn’t immediately split when I got close:

Another disappointment: our guide said there were native Maya selling things they’d made in the village attached to the historical site. We would’ve definitely bought something if we’d seen anything we were certain was handmade but all the wood carvings looked like they’d have a sticker that said, “hecho en China” (made in China). So, we didn’t.

The place fascinated me. And I still want to go to Chichén Itzå.

Our First (and Last) Cruise

February 10th, 2017

Yes, it’s been a while. Not much has been happening in my world, unless you count my (hopefully) learning how to read the Herbal Tarot and starting the research for a new book. We did, however, go on vacation last week, taking our first-ever cruise.

Not having any real clue whether we’d enjoy it or not, or which was the best line, I chose a 5-day, 4-night cruise with Carnival. (It’s actually a lot shorter than that, leaving late Monday afternoon & returning first-thing Friday morning. So, more like 3-plus days, 4 nights. That suited me, too.)

Our first stop was Key West – someplace I’d always wanted to visit. Mostly to go to the Hemingway House to see the six-toed kitties. Boy howdy, do they have cats! 53 currently, but not all with six toes on the front paws. Some had the normal number, but one had 24 toes (six on all four paws – a rarity)! Did you know? They have their own on-call veterinarian, and a cat cemetery on property. All the cats are named after movie stars. I think the top pic is of Betty Grable. Or maybe it’s Marlene Dietrich. (I never could get one in a position to actually see the toes in the picture.)

All cats drink out of toilets, if allowed, right? The bottom of that fountain is a urinal out of the original Sloppy Joe’s. 😀

Key West has a lot more to offer in the way of sightseeing, though. There’s the Truman “Little White House”, some pretty neat trees, and the Key West Museum with awesome sculptures:

Truman White House
Banyan Tree
Kapok Tree
Sculptures at the Key West Museum

Upon our return to the ship, our cabin had already been serviced and we were greeted with a towel animal (a different one each morning):

Poison Ivy is a running joke with friends. You’ll see her in my pics here & there.

Then it was on to Cozumel and our tour to Tulum. (I’d wanted to go to ChichĂ©n ItzĂĄ but they cancelled that tour.) I’ll have to do a completely separate post on that – I’m still processing what I saw, heard and felt. But, here’s some pics to get you started:

If you have an opportunity, go. It’s one of the most awesome places I’ve been.

As usual with shore excursions, our time was too short everywhere. We had about forty-five minutes in Playa del Carmen before the ferry back to Cozumel. (And got caught in a shower without an umbrella, to boot!) Our tour guide mentioned one of her favorite places in the shopping district – Ah Cacao. Chocolate! Of course, I had to visit – and make a purchase. Unfortunately, that souvenir didn’t last long.

One day at sea (which was windy), then back to Miami and our plane (and drive) home. During that day at sea, we discussed the cruise and whether we’d want to do it again. The staff was extremely friendly, the food wasn’t bad (we wouldn’t consider it gourmet but it was quite edible), and we made new friends. The answer was ‘yes, but on a different line and a room with a balcony’. You see, we’re old folks. Music started blaring at 9am and didn’t stop until very late. There was no where to go on deck that was quiet enough to just enjoy the view without the bass beat pounding its way into your thoughts. Our cabin was on the lowest deck, right above the deck they use for entering/exiting the ship. The noise associated with docking started as soon as the ship made port, usually at dark-thirty. A room higher up would eliminate that problem.

The answer was ‘yes, we’d do it again’ until I woke up Saturday morning still feeling like I was on a ship. Thinking it was temporary, I wasn’t too worried about reeling around the house. Unfortunately, a week later, I’m still reeling. And it’s really a thing. It’s called Mal de DĂ©barquement Syndrome. (Naturally, I’d be one to get this…) So, no more cruising for me and fingers crossed this eventually goes away. I feel like I’m drunk without any of the benefits of being so!

I’ll write another post on Tulum when I get my thoughts together. In the meantime, it’s back to the grind.

Winter Solstice 2016

December 26th, 2016

If you’ve been following along, you know that the Winter Solstice is my New Year. Naturally, I celebrate the calendar along with everyone else, but the Solstice is when I do all my yearly thinking and planning. I also do a full rune cast to see what the coming year has in store for me. (It looks like a good year!)

One of the things on my bucket list is learn to read tarot. I love my runes but they don’t go into as much detail as cards. I’ve tried several different decks and have never been able to connect with the cards. Earlier this fall, I ran across The Herbal Tarot. Herbal? Hmm. Maybe I could connect with that deck? So, I bought a set, along with the companion book.

The companion book has been shelved. First, it’s aimed toward healers who want to use the deck in a consulting practice and I don’t consult. Second, it’s a wee bit too touchy-feely (and perhaps “love and light”) for my taste. The little book that comes with the deck gives all the information I’d need. (I noticed some of the Latin binomials are misspelled. Just sayin’.)

I quickly discovered the rote memorization ability that has served me well all these years no longer functions as well as it once did. I couldn’t remember a card’s meaning from one day to the next, yet spirit tells me this is something I need to learn. So, another tack, the same one I took with the runes: using them.

I don’t do daily divination for myself anymore. My life is, for the most part, very calm and predictable. (Thank goodness. At this age, I’d hate for it to be anything but.) I only cast the runes twice a year (at the Solstices) and when spirit prompts me to do so. (Or, if a friend asks for a reading.) So, that won’t work. While doing my annual thinking and planning, I came up with another method.

I’m going to borrow something from my friend, Renee. She’s been learning wire wrapping and chose “A Year of Mastery” as her theme, posting her progress both on her blog and over on her Facebook page. (If you’re a jewelry-type person, you need to check out what she & her husband do. It’s fabulous!)

Starting 1st January, I’m going to pull one card a day, using the universal, “what do we need to know for today?” as my question. I’ll post it, along with my thoughts, on my Facebook page. (Sorry, Twitter. I doubt 140 characters will be enough.) There will be a one week exception: we’re going on vacation (yay!) the end of January. I’m not hauling everything with me.

And…if you want a free reading, pop me an email with your question. It’ll give me some practice at switching my focus from runes to cards. (Note: this offer subject to withdrawal at any time.)

What do we need to know for today?

So, follow along with my Year of Mastery.

Thanksgiving 2016

November 24th, 2016

food-145187_640

On This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for:

 

  •  My health, for without that, nothing is enjoyable
  • The fact that our house and trees have not burnt down in a wildfire (but my heart hurts for those that have)
  • The fact that even in this drought, our well still has water (but my heart hurts for those in Flint, the Standing Rock Tribe and the protestors [and all those downstream from that area], and all the world’s people for whom fresh water is a luxury)
  • The fact that I have a roof over my head and good food to eat (but my heart hurts for those who do not)
  • My readers, who give me a reason to write
  • Our cats, who give me unconditional love (and a lot of laughs)
  • Our friends, near and far (distance being relative here in the country), real-life and not-yet-met-in-person (the meetings will come)
  • My husband, whom I love to the ends of the earth
  • Most of all, I am thankful for my family, for they are not all blood but they are family, nonetheless

Happy Thanksgiving, with love

On Wildfires and Elections

November 17th, 2016

I’m on edge. It’s no surprise but still…

In case you haven’t been paying a whit of attention to the news, there are wildfires throughout the Southeastern United States. It’s no wonder…rain has been scarce and we’re tinder-dry. (I was watching the news a few nights ago when they interviewed a US Forestry Service (USFS) spokesperson. She said they measure moisture on a scale of 0 to 800; 0 being pure water, 800 being the Sahara Desert. She said we’re in the 700s.) So far, we’ve been lucky here. All we’ve gotten is smoke, and even that depends on which way the wind is blowing. See that orange star between two red fire markers? That’s about where we are.

fires_south_11-16-2016Original image from http://wildfiretoday.com/2016/11/16/update-on-six-wildfires-in-the-south-november-16-2016/

This map only shows ten of over two hundred fires burning throughout five states. The red dot to our left is the Rough Ridge Fire which, as of yesterday, had burned nearly 25,000 acres (according to one site, that’s larger than the borough of Manhattan in New York). The Rock Mountain Fire, to our right, almost 7,000. Neither is even close to being contained. They say the Rough Ridge Fire was started by a lightning strike; Rock Mountain was intentional. Why would anyone do such a thing?

And…I’m Earth-sensitive. Normally, I love it. I can take a walk and feel the emotions of the trees, shrubs, ground… Today? Not so much. All the living things are parched – it’s even worse than the drought in 2007. Don’t think plants speak to each other? Those two wildfires are miles away from us, yet our trees are in pain for their brethren. Logically, I know occasional fire is good for a forest (hell, the USFS does controlled burns regularly) but that knowledge doesn’t help their feelings or mine. And there’s nothing I can do to assuage their fears except tell them I’ll do my damnedest to protect them. Both of our outside spigots have hoses hooked up, ready to use should the worst happen. At least, we’ll use them as long as we’re allowed to stay, and as long as our well holds out.

So here I sit, hoping against hope no idiot flicks a lit cigarette butt out a car window; and mentally reviewing what we’d need to snatch if we had to evacuate. (That includes where my heavy leather gloves are kept – Yuri and Sev do not like cat carriers.) I’ve never had to think of such things before.

Add to that the US elections a couple of weeks ago and the ensuing madness … people attacking Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ people just because they think it’s now okay. After all, Mr. Trump talks that way. I am saddened that in 2016, I feel like I live in 1930s Germany.The uncertainty of the future seems worse to me than it ever has and I’ve voted in 10 presidential elections.

I live in a heavily fundamentalist Christian area. Although I’m pretty circumspect about my practices, I am out of the broom closet. I believe my neighbors are reasonable people but what if one of them opened their mouth to someone not so reasonable? I have very strong wards … and a gun I’m not afraid to use. Even thinking about something like that is very uncomfortable but I was a Girl Scout once: Be Prepared.

So, if I’m quieter than usual, you know why.

Honey to the Rescue!

October 31st, 2016

I normally have mild spring and fall allergies, fall being just a little worse. A little sniffing, a little sneezing, a little itchy eyes for a week or so, and I’m back to normal. I don’t even consider them bad enough to take anything. Usually.

Not this year. Whatever was blooming, on top of the dust from dying leaves and drought-dry everything else, made me miserable for a month. The allergies then (I think) turned into a full-blown sinus infection. On top of that, my immune system was (and is) trying to battle the germs from husband’s fall cold (which the stubborn man refuses to treat, even just to ease or shorten the symptoms).

Nothing I tried worked. The inflammation and congestion in my sinuses stayed firmly put no matter what herbal allies went to battle for me. Desperate, I did some internet searching.

And came across mention of not just regular honey*, but Manuka honey. From New Zealand. Virtually everything I read was anecdotal evidence. A lot of it was taking the properties of regular honey and extrapolating possible results due to the higher nutritional content of Manuka honey. (There are few clinical trials on regular honey, much less this type.) But, as I said, I was desperate. So, I ordered some of this holy-shit-that’s-expensive honey (UMF 16 for medicinal purposes) and ate my first tablespoon of it the night it arrived. (It’s not quite as sweet as regular honey and is much thicker, in case you’re wondering.)

Public Domain image

Another tablespoon the next morning and evening, repeat. Within 48 hours, blowing my nose became a productive thing rather than a waste of tissue. Five days later (two tablespoons per day), my face no longer feels like a brick is laying on it (ignore the properties of gravity – you know what I mean). So, I’m going to say my investment was worth it, and continue to take this twice a day until the symptoms completely subside. Once I feel healthy again, I’ll reduce it to once per day as a prophylactic measure during cold and flu season.

YMMV but if all else fails, do some searching, read up on this stuff, and make an investment. You might thank me. (Or not.)

 

*I don’t mean that crap in the grocery store that comes in cute little plastic bears. That’s been so processed it’s only good for flavoring. I mean the stuff you get from the farmer’s market or even a local beekeeper that’s not processed.

Am I A Dinosaur?

September 22nd, 2016

dinosaur-46298_1280

 

I’ve been contemplating this adjective for a while. Merriam-Webster defines a dinosaur as, “(2) someone or something that is no longer useful or current : an obsolete or out-of-date person or thing”.

I feel out-of-date, perhaps even a little obsolete. Perhaps it’s my age (I’m well over the half-century mark). But some of the things I’m seeing:

  • Witches no longer doing their own thinking. If a question arises, they post it onto social media and let the public answer it rather than do a little research and/or just sit and cogitate on the matter.
  • Young’uns don’t even write their own spells anymore. They just look it up in one of a myriad of books on the market today. I will admit I had no formal teaching but it seems to me creativity and personalization are a couple of ingredients in any good spell. After all, no two situations are identical in every respect. That said, writing a spell from scratch would take time and that doesn’t fit with the gotta-have-it-now mentality that seems to permeate society.
  • Then there’s the whole, “I did a spell for [this] last night and boy, was it powerful!” on social media. Just an announcement? Bragging? While it probably originates with Eliphas LĂ©vi (1810-1875), To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent seems to have fallen by the wayside.
  • There’s an app for that. I admit technology has made life easier. I wouldn’t have the lifestyle I have if it weren’t for computers and the internet. But it only goes so far. As an example: a lot of people do divination, usually with cards or runes. Many do it on a daily basis to see what the day has in store for them. But many of them do it by pressing a button on their phone and let a computer somewhere shuffle the cards or muddle the runes.  Last I knew, the cards/runes were affected by your personal energy as you shuffled/muddled them. How can an impersonal computer, who knows how many hundreds or thousands of miles away, pick up on that energy then display the right card/rune for you?
  • People bemoaning that they can’t get close to nature because they live in an apartment in the city (and by extension, just can’t do a spell for this or that). I lived in apartments until I was 35 and in the city until just 13 years ago. City parks are wonderful postage-stamp-sized samples of nature. I had a car. It would take me out of the city to much larger state or national parks. (Don’t have a car because you don’t need one? Good for you. But there are these things called car rental agencies that will allow you to rent one just for a single day.) “They’re crowded,” I hear. Park your butt on the ground against a tree and stare off into space or close your eyes. You’d be surprised how many people will give you a wide berth and leave you alone. As long as you’re not making a spectacle of yourself, you can even do a spell while you’re sitting there.

This is just a slice of the pie that has me grumpy. Call me old-fashioned (I do) or even a curmudgeon (I do that, too) but what I see, read, and hear makes me think laziness is at the forefront of witchcraft. And that makes me sad.

Where’s Fall?

September 9th, 2016
fall-autumn-red-seasonDoesn’t this look inviting?

Here in the Southeastern US, we’re still sweltering. Usually by this time (second week in September) we’ve cooled off a little but the forecast isn’t looking good. I decided I’d try to find Fall.

*dials 1-800-MAN-ATUR*

“Thank you for calling Mother Nature’s Consortium. If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it at any time. For Winter, press 11. For Spring, press 12, for Summer, press 13. For Fall, press 14. For Rain, press 21. For Wind, press 22…”

*presses 14*

“I’m sorry … Fall … is not available. If you would like to leave a message, please press the pound key.”

*presses pound*

“I’m sorry, this mailbox is full. Please try again later.”

Maybe the Operator can find Fall.

*presses 0*

“I’m sorry, that extension is busy helping another customer. The current wait time is … four weeks. If you do not wish to hold, please try again later.”

I’ll keep trying and let you know if I find Fall.

The USOC’s Safe Sport Program

August 17th, 2016

This post is worlds away from my normal musings but it’s something that’s been bugging me a lot and I need to get it off my chest.

For the first time in nearly twenty years, I am no longer very involved in the sport of fencing. I became a technician after accompanying my then-fiancé to a national-level tournament in November 1996. As an international-grade technician, I met many wonderful people from countless countries, and made a lot of good friends. In 1998, I became the Treasurer of the Georgia Division of the US Fencing Association. I have not worked as a technician in several years because of physical limitations but I held that Board position until I reluctantly resigned at the end of July.

Two years ago, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) rolled out their Safe Sport program.I recognize that abuse happens everywhere, including sports, and it must come to a halt. Perhaps if this awareness was around twenty-plus years ago, fencing would not have lost a promising female sabrist because of alleged verbal abuse from her coach. Then there are the allegations against Bela Karolyi, the US Gymnastics coach in the 80s and 90s. That said, there must be a better way.

While Safe Sport applies to any sport governed by the USOC, I can only speak to my experience with fencing.

Two years ago, my US Fencing annual membership fee jumped from $25 (“Supporting”) to $105 (“Professional”) because I wanted to volunteer. There are no additional benefits derived for that $80 so I was paying for the privilege of donating my time and expertise. In addition, a background check was required every two years, for which I paid an additional $35. (Remember, my husband volunteered, as well, so double the load on our joint wallet.) An additional $160 every year plus $70 every two years won’t break our bank but I do wonder how many people they lost because they couldn’t afford the increase.

This year, in addition to the increase in dues plus the background check, all “Professional” members (coaches, referees, Division officers) are required to take a 90-minute online training course on how to recognize and deal with abuse. At the end of the course, you receive a certificate, which implies you are then trained to recognize abuse.

As I said above, I haven’t worked a tournament in several years. As Treasurer, the only people I generally have contact with are bank tellers but I may walk into an ongoing tournament because there is a meeting following.  The scenario I posited:

I walk into a club because there’s a meeting following the conclusion of the tournament. I may go to the restroom; I may have a conversation with someone, our backs turned to the room. During the time I am there, an alleged incident of abuse happens and, given our litigious society, the alleged victim decides to sue. Any attorney worth his or her salt is going to pull the “certification” of every person in that venue and, because we are “certified”, sue us for not stopping the alleged abuse.

My husband and I are approaching retirement. We cannot afford to defend ourselves in such a lawsuit and there are no provisions in the Safe Sport program for insurance against such. The liability coverage in our homeowner’s insurance does not cover this sort of situation (I asked). It was a very difficult decision but we both decided to back away from our involvement in fencing rather than risk losing everything we have worked for.

While we are still helping the Georgia Division in aspects that do not require compliance with the Safe Sport policies, I feel as if a part of me has been lost. And it’s a part that will never be recovered unless these policies change.

I haz a sad.